Welcome to the club

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Quote of the day:As a climate scientist who has worked on this issue for several decades, first as head of the Met[eorological] Office, and then as co-chair of scientific assessment for the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change, the impacts of global warming are such that I have no hesitation in describing it as a ‘weapon of mass destruction’.” (John Houghton, Global warming is now a weapon of mass destruction, the Guardian,)

Call this a hodgepodge, one of those conglomerate creatures of medieval nightmares, half human, half anything you choose — or simply a series of snapshots of Bush’s America:

*Welcome to the club.

CNN reports that the House of Representatives has passed an amendment that would repeal a provision of the USA Patriot Act — “the ‘sneak-and-peek’ law Section 213 of the Patriot Act, rooted in a 1978 foreign intelligence surveillance law, grants federal agents the right to search the homes of suspected terrorists and spies with secret court approval but without prior notice to the suspect

“The amendment, introduced by Rep. C. L. ‘Butch’ Otter, R-Idaho, was passed on a 309-to-118 vote with support from members of both parties, wary of the potential abuse of secret searches.”

In a four-page unsigned letter sent to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, John Ashcroft’s Justice Department has now relabeled this effort (which it hopes to kill in the Senate): “‘The Otter amendment, better termed the terrorist tipoff amendment, would have a devastating effect on our ongoing efforts to detect and prevent terrorism as well as combat other serious crimes,’ the Justice Department letter said.”

There’s a nice welcome to the club for conservative Republicans, a kiss-off from an administration eager not to conserve anything from American liberties to Iraqi fossil fuels, nothing that is except the imperial right to impunity at home or abroad.

*Whose side are you on anyway?

Recently, a conservative cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times was visited by the Secret Service, part of the vigilant “intelligence” work of an administration ever so eager to sneak and peak, not to speak of repress, oppress, and suppress. Evidently, they took at peek at one of Michael Ramirez’s cartoons — a mock version of famous Vietnam footage in which the Saigon police chief put a gun to the head of a Vietcong suspect and shot him. In this case, a man labeled “politics” had a gun to the President’s head. It was, ironically, a cartoon supporting Bush — but in the service of vigilance you can’t put too fine a point on things. Here’s part of an account of the episode from Editor & Publisher. (To take a look at the cartoon itself click here):

“What does Michael Ramirez think about doing an editorial cartoon supporting President Bush and then being visited by a Secret Service agent?’It makes you wonder about our so-called “intelligence’ services,”‘ the Los Angeles Times staffer replied with a laugh. ‘You have to be a little bit intelligent to “get” the cartoon. The majority of readers “got”‘ it.’

“Ramirez’s July 20 cartoon, a takeoff on the famous photo of a Viet Cong member being shot at point-blank range, showed a man labeled “politics” aiming a gun at a caricatured version of Bush. The next day, Ramirez received a call from Secret Service agent Peter Damos asking if he could visit. The conservative cartoonist jokingly agreed, because ‘I just assumed it was a hoax.’ When Damos showed up at the Times, he was turned away after speaking with an attorney for the paper.

“‘I thought the visit was a little bit of an overreaction,’ Ramirez told E&P Online.”

*Who will judge them?

Matthew Rothschild, editor of the Progressive magazine has done a fine riff on the future of American justice as brought to you by the people who created Club Dead-End, detention ’til the end of time in sunny Guantanamo (Extremism Squared). It reads in part:

“On issue after issue, [Bush] leads with his right and follows with a right.On July 23, the Senate Judiciary Committee, by a party line vote, decided to send to the full Senate the nomination of William Pryor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.

“Democrats have correctly pointed out that Pryor has far right views. He opposed the Supreme Court’s recent landmark ruling upholding the rights of gays to consensual sex in the privacy of their homes. He’s called Roe v. Wade “the worst abomination” of constitutional law in U.S. historyAs Alabama’s attorney general, he defended the state’s “practice of handcuffing prisoners to a hitching post . . . for seven hours without water or bathroom breaks” Now when Democrats opposed him, how did the Republicans react? They waged a scurrilous campaign accusing the Democrats of being anti-Catholic It’s extremism in defense of extremism.”

*Bush’s America reaches for the record book.

Reuters reports (James Vicini, U.S. Prison and Jail Population Increases in 2002) that, at the very moment when state budgets are at the edge of catastrophe, prison costs are soaring thanks to our faith in our own gulag archipelago:

“The U.S. prison and jail population increased to 2,033,331 people at the end of last year, holding one out of every 143 residents, according to a Justice Department report released on Sunday.

“The Bureau of Justice Statistics reported a 3.7 percent increase last year. The 2.6 percent rise in the prison population alone represented the largest jump in three years, equal to 700 inmates added every week during the year.”

The truth is, as a society we’re hooked on prisons and as with other things we’re hooked on (see under “oil,” below), this administration couldn’t have less interest in exploring alternatives.

*Impunity everywhere.

Steve Kretzmann and Jim Vallette at the Common Dreams website (Operation Oily Immunity) note that in Iraq a newly planned “Development Fund, derived from actual and expected Iraqi oil and gas sales, apparently will be used to leverage U.S. government-backed loans, credit, and direct financing for U.S. corporate forays into Iraq.” In other words, we plan to finance the reconstruction of Iraq by mortgaging what our president, before the war, called the “patrimony” of the Iraqi people. It turns out that in Iraq, if not the US, the “death tax” has not yet been repealed.

Next, Kretzmann and Vallette offer a remarkable little window into this administration’s concept of global impunity (they call it “immunity”):

“For the Bush/Cheney administration and their allies in the oil industry hours after the UN endorsed US control of the ‘Development Fund’ for Iraq, Bush signed an executive order that was spun as implementing Resolution 1483, but in reality, went much further towards attracting investment and minimizing risk for US corporations in Iraq.

“Executive Order 13303 decrees that ‘any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process is prohibited, and shall be deemed null and void’, with respect to the Development Fund for Iraq and ‘all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests therein.’

“In other words, if ExxonMobil or ChevronTexaco touch Iraqi oil, it will be immune from legal proceedings in the US. Anything that could go, and elsewhere has gone, awry with U.S. corporate oil operations will be immune to judgment: a massive tanker accident; an explosion at an oil refinery; the employment of slave labor to build a pipeline; murder of locals by corporate security; the release of billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The President, with a stroke of the pen, signed away the rights of Saddam’s victims, creditors and of the next true Iraqi government to be compensated through legal action. Bush’s order unilaterally declares Iraqi oil to be the unassailable province of U.S. corporations. “

*The unintended consequences of American policies.

When Chalmers Johnson first used the CIA term “blowback” — the unintended domestic consequences of American covert policies abroad — for the title of his book, could this be what he meant? Sometimes, it seems, impunity has its own price. William D. Hartung and Michelle Ciarrocca at the Nation website (Ugly Americans in Paris):

“The United States may have won the war for regime change in Iraq, but US companies are in danger of losing the peace, in large part due to backlash against the Rumsfeld/Perle/Wolfowitz brand of Ugly Americanism.

“Even before [the] Paris [Air Show], there were signs afoot that the Bush policy of talking loudly and carrying a big stick is not good for business. Jane’s Defence Weekly reported that the partners in the first major European-wide military transport plane, the A-400M, opted at the last minute to switch the engine from the Canadian subsidiary of US-based Pratt and Whitney to an all-European consortium because it was the only way to get the project cleared by the German Parliament. And the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the trade group that represents Lockheed Martin, Boeing and all the big US military/aerospace companies, took great pains to point out in its monthly newsletter that the leading importer of US aerospace goods in recent years has been none other than Donald Rumsfeld’s favorite foil: France.”

Or how’s this for another “unintended consequence” of life in Bush’s America? In “Science Friction” in the most recent Washington Monthly magazine, Nicholas Thompson suggests that “recent efforts by our government to constrain the flow of international visitors in the name of national security are having serious unintended consequences for American science, engineering and medicine.”

Thompson vividly lays out (see below) how “science friction” has turned the Bush administration’s science policy into science fiction. You knew, of course, about the Bush litmus test for Supreme Court justices, but how about the litmus test for an appointment to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Safety and Occupational Health Study Section for ergonomics? Don’t miss this piece.

Of all the science this administration has the urge to turn to fiction, none is more obvious than global warming, the one subject this administration would like to “study” forever. This is, of course, a joke, but an all too serious one. Nothing proves more clearly that Bush’s so-called “neocons” aren’t “conservatives” than the urge to let our planet go to hell, while oil companies plunder Iraq and we try to turn most of the globe into a giant gas station.

As expert John Houghton (see quote of the day above) comments in the Guardian:

“Nowadays everyone knows that the US is the world’s biggest polluter, and that with only one 20th of the world’s population it produces a quarter of its greenhouse gas emissions. But the US government, in an abdication of leadership of epic proportions, is refusing to take the problem seriously – and Britain, presumably because Blair wishes not to offend George Bush – is beginning to fall behind too. Emissions from the US are up 14% on those in 1990 and are projected to rise by a further 12% over the next decade

“Nor does the latest science provide any comfort. The intergovernmental panel on climate change has warned of 1.4C to 5.8C (2.5F to 10.4F) temperature rises by 2100a degree and speed of global warming the consequences of which are hard to quantify or even imagine.”

American experts have denounced the administration no less strongly (not that it matters to them). AP’s Scott Sonner (Experts at US Conference on Global Warming Say Bush’s Position ‘Ludicrous’) reports:

“International experts at a gathering of more than 1,000 scientists studying climate change and the future of mankind say the threat of global warming is real and getting worse.

“One leading researcher at the weeklong conference said it was ‘ludicrous’ that the Bush administration has refused to acknowledge the increasing dangers of greenhouse gases.’The voluntary measures the administration is proposing are going to get us nowhere,’ Raymond Bradley said Friday. Bradley is the director of the University of Massachusetts’ Climate System Research Center at Amherst, Mass.

“Bradley criticized the White House decision this week to make the study of natural cycles in climate change the chief goal of a new 10-year plan addressing global warming… [Present research] is only imprecise if you choose to consider what I would describe as fringe science.”

Now, check out how “fringe science” drives this administration in the Washington Monthly and then, since this is a “mythological beast” of a dispatch, sample Rebecca Solnit’s splendid column at the environmental magazine Orion online on how the objects we buy first fell “silent” and how they can begin to talk again. (Yes, it’s only tangentially related to the rest of the piece, but after contemplating Bush science, just think of it a picker-upper for the spirit.) Tom

Science Friction
The growing — and dangerous — divide between scientists and the GOP
By Nicholas Thompson
The Washington Monthly
July/August 2003

Not long ago, President Bush asked a federal agency for evidence to support a course of action that many believe he had already chosen to take on a matter of grave national importance that had divided the country. When the government experts didn’t provide the information the president was looking for, the White House sent them back to hunt for more. The agency returned with additional raw and highly qualified information, which the president ran with, announcing his historic decision on national television. Yet the evidence soon turned out to be illusory, and the entire policy was called into question.

Weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, you say? Actually, the above scenario describes Bush’s decision-making process on the issue of stem cell research.

Nicholas Thompson is a Washington Monthly contributing editor.

To read more Thompson click here

The Silence of the Lambswool Cardigans
At one time, Nike was the goddess of victory and shoes told stories
By Rebecca Solnit
Orion Magazine

There was a time not so long ago when everything was recognizable not just as a cup or a coat, but as a cup made by so-and-so out of clay from this bank on the local river or woven by the guy in that house out of wool from the sheep visible on the hills. Then, objects were not purely material, mere commodities, but signs of processes, human and natural, pieces of a story, and the story as well as the stuff sustained life. It’s as though every object spoke — some of them must have sung out — in a language everyone could hear, a language that surrounded every object in an aura of its history.

Rebecca Solnit wrote the essay for photographer John Pfahl’s new book Extreme Horticulture. It’s titled “The Botanical Circus, or, Adventures in American Gardening.” She is a regular columnist for Orion magazine, and a contributor to OrionOnline.

To read more Solnit click here